Working to Elucidate the Mechanisms of Persistence and Pathogenesis by the Causative Agents of Lyme Disease and Relapsing Fever
Research interests involving Lyme disease and Relapsing fever Borrelia species include:
Antigenic variation and persistence mechanisms
Host adaptation processes
Over the past 18 years, I have conducted molecular genetic studies on Borrelia species that cause Lyme disease and Relapsing fever. These investigations have focused on identifying the mechanistic determinants responsible for antigenic variation, and genetic factors involved in host adaptation and pathogenesis. The design of these studies has recently evolved to bridge microbial genetics and molecular biology to bacterial pathogenesis under more natural conditions involving the enzootic cycle of the pathogen. Overall, the goal of this work is to ultimately advance our current knowledge of these processes utilized by Borrelia species as it relates to both human infection and the pathogen’s natural life cycle. In my spare time, I enjoy hiking, fishing, and traveling with my family.
I obtained my PhD from New Delhi, India and completed first postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Maryland where I was originally trained in spirochete biology. I developed an immense interest in bacterial pathogenesis with a special emphasis on the host immune response. Thereafter, I obtained my current position in Dr. Bankhead’s lab, and am currently investigating the mechanisms of immune evasion and persistent infection by Borrelia burgdorferi. The major goal of my study is to elucidate the molecular details of the highly efficient antigenic variation system of the spirochete that is responsible for its spectacular persistence during infection of the mammalian host. Apart from the lab, whenever I get time, I like to travel around the world and learn about different cultures and societies!
After completing a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry at WSU in 2014, I began working in Dr. Bankhead’s lab as a scientific assistant to gain more laboratory experience while I applied for PhD programs in structural biology elsewhere. After only a few months, I realized that the research being pursued in the Bankhead lab was far more exciting than what I had originally planned to study. I am currently working to characterize a sRNA encoded by linear plasmid 17 which appears to play an important role in host tissue colonization through the modulation of surface antigen expression. Outside of work I spend my time bowling, playing guitar, and volunteering as an academic and professional mentor at my undergraduate fraternity here on campus.
Combined Pathology Resident/PhD Graduate Student
My interest is in the pathogenesis of Lyme disease infection in mammals. In particular, I am investigating the role of an lp17-resident gene on tissue tropism, tissue damage, and spirochete persistence in the mouse model.
I'm a transplant from the east coast: I was born and raised in Charleston, SC, and obtained my BS in Biology from Duke University. I worked as a research technician at the Duke University Children’s Hospital for 2 years prior to enrolling in a DVM program at University of Georgia. I came to WSU in 2015 to pursue a combined anatomic pathology residency and PhD program. When not in the lab, I spend time gardening, hiking, and cooking with my husband, daughter, and our border collie, Sgt Pepper.
PhD Graduate Student
I am interested in researching vector-borne pathogens, particularly the interaction between the pathogen and the arthropod vector. My current project investigates the bacterial agent of Lyme Disease, Borrelia burgdorferi, and the genes induced when the bacteria enters and persists in the tick vector environment. We will utilize in vivo Expression Technology (or IVET) to identify the tick-specific induced genes. Once we identify those induced genes, we will characterize the previously undocumented or non-tick associated genes via deletion mutational analysis.
I strongly appreciate a good cup of coffee and conversation. I am a regular customer at Café Moro and Palouse Games in downtown Pullman. Breakfast and/or brunch is my favorite meal of the day.
PhD Graduate Student
I received my BS in Microbiology from WSU in 2018 and immediately thereafter began working in Dr. Bankhead’s lab as a scientific assistant before transitioning into a student role. As a graduate student, I am continuing to split my time between two projects regarding the routine functioning of Borrelia. These projects seek to better characterize the essential nature of protein factors through both mutational analysis and functional inhibition. I am finding both to be very fun. When I have free time, I like to relax with my cat Spongey and draw or take time to visit my family in the Tri-Cities.
The Fruits of Our Labor
Lone AG and Bankhead T. The Borrelia burgdorferi VlsE lipoprotein prevents antibody binding to an arthritis-related surface antigen. Cell Reports 30; 3663–3670, 2020.
Casselli T, Crowley MA, Highland MA, Tourand Y, Bankhead T. A Small Intergenic Region of lp17 is Required for Evasion of Adaptive Immunity and Induction of Pathology by the Lyme Disease Spirochete. Cellular Microbiology. e13029. doi.org/10.1111/cmi.13029, 2019. Editor's Choice Article
James AE, Rogovskyy AS, Crowley MA, Bankhead T. Cis-Acting DNA Elements Flanking the Vmp Expression Site of Borrelia hermsii are Required for Murine Persistence. MicrobiologyOpen; e569. doi.org/10.1002/mbo3.569, 2018.
Bankhead, T. Role of the VlsE lipoprotein in Immune Avoidance by the Lyme Disease Spirochete, Borrelia burgdorferi. Forum on Immunopathological Diseases and Therapeutics, Vol. 7. No. 3-4. Begel House Inc., 2016.
Magunda PR, Bankhead T. Investigating the potential role of non-vls genes on linear plasmid 28-1 in virulence and persistence by Borrelia burgdorferi. BMC Microbiology 16(1):180, 2016.
James AE, Rogovskyy AS, Crowley MA, Bankhead T. Characterization of a DNA Adenine Methyltransferase Gene of Borrelia hermsii and Its Dispensability for Murine Infection and Persistence. PLoS One, 11(5):e0155798, 2016.
Palmer G, Bankhead T, Seifert H. 2016. Antigenic Variation in Bacterial Pathogens. Microbiol Spectrum 4(1): VMBF-0005-2015, 2016.
Casselli T and Bankhead T. Use of in vivo Expression Technology for the Identification of Putative Host Adaptation Factors of the Lyme Disease Spirochete. J Mol Microbiol Biotechnol 25:349-361, 2015.
Rogovskyy AS, Jones CR, Owen JP, Mason KL, Scoles GA and Bankhead T. Evaluation of the Importance of VlsE Antigenic Variation for the Enzootic Cycle of Borrelia burgdorferi. PLoS One 10(4): e0124268, 2015.
Rogovskyy AS and Bankhead T. Bacterial heterogeneity is a requirement for host superinfection by the Lyme disease spirochete. Infection and Immunity 82: 4542-4552, 2014.
Hove P, Haldorson GJ, Magunda F and Bankhead T. Presence of Arp Specifically Contributes to Joint Tissue Edema Associated with Early Onset Lyme Arthritis. Infection and Immunity 82(1):43-51, 2014.
Rogovskyy AS and Bankhead T. Variable VlsE is Critical for Host Reinfection by the Lyme Disease Spirochete. PLOS One 8(4):e61226, 2013.
Casselli T, Tourand Y and Bankhead T. Altered Murine Tissue Colonization by Borrelia burgdorferi Following the Targeted Deletion of Linear Plasmid 17-Carried Genes. Infection and Immunity 80(5): 1773-1782, 2012.
Full List Of Published Work
CONGRATULATIONS TO JESSICA WONG WHO SUCCESSFULLY PASSED THE ACVP PHASE II BOARD EXAM, AND IS NOW A BOARD-CERTIFIED PATHOLOGIST! HUGE ACCOMPLISHMENT!!
September 29, 2021
DANNY POWELL WAS AWARDED AN ARCS SCHOLARSHIP! CONGRATULATIONS DANNY!!
DANNY POWELL HAS JOINED THE LAB AS A NEW PHD GRADUATE STUDENT!
August 16, 2021
MICHAEL CROWLEY SUCCESSFULLY PASSED HIS PHD FINAL DEFENSE! CONGRATULATIONS DR. CROWLEY!
JESSICA WONG RECEIVED THE 2020 WSU CL DAVIS FOUNDATION PATHOLOGY TRAINING AND SCHOLARSHIP AWARD AT THE ACVP ANNUAL MEETING. CONGRATS JESSICA!!
JESSICA WONG WAS ONE OF ONLY SIX GRADUATE STUDENTS TO BE AWARDED A PONCIN FELLOWSHIP! WAY TO GO JESSICA!!
MICHAEL CROWLEY WAS AWARDED THE LYNN A. GEORGE III MEMORIAL SCHOLARSHIP! CONGRATULATIONS MICHAEL!
POSTDOCTORAL ASSOCIATE POSITION AVAILABLE
A NIH-funded Postdoctoral Associate position is currently available. The successful applicant will join a multidisciplinary laboratory using state-of-the-art technologies to study mechanisms of immune evasion and host-pathogen interactions by Borrelia species.
Qualified postdoctoral candidates will hold a PhD in microbiology, biomedical sciences, or related field, have first author publications in peer-reviewed journals, and have a strong background in molecular biology and microbial genetics. Specific expertise in bacterial pathogenesis, mouse models of infection, and immunology is preferred but not required. Interested candidates should contact Dr. Bankhead at email@example.com.